The importance of women's expectations on the experience of birth has shown contradictory results regarding fulfilment. The aim of this study was to describe pregnant women's expectations of birth and to investigate if these expectations were fulfilled. An additional aim was to determine if unfulfilled expectations were related to the mode of birth, use of epidural and the birth experience.
This research investigated a prospective regional cohort study of 1042 Swedish-speaking women who completed a questionnaire about birth expectations in late pregnancy and were followed up with two months after birth. Five areas were under study: support from partner, support from midwife, control, participation in decision making and the midwife's presence during labour and birth. An index combining expectations and experiences was created.
Certain background characteristics were associated with expectations as well as experiences. Statistically significant differences were shown between expectations and experiences in support from midwife (mean 3.41 vs 3.32), support from partner (mean 3.70 vs 3.77), and midwife's presence (mean 3.00 vs 3.39). Experiences 'worse than expected' regarding decision making and control were associated with modes of birth other than vaginal and four out of five areas were associated with a less positive birth experience.
Some women had high birth expectations of which some were fulfilled. An expectation on support from the midwife was less likely to be achieved, while support from partner and the midwives' presence were fulfilled. If the woman's expectations were not fulfilled, e.g. became 'worse than expected' this was associated with a less positive overall birth experience as well as with instrumental or surgical mode of birth.
2015. Vol. 28, no 2, e7-e13 p.